Making Thinking Visible in the Science Classroom

Making thinking visible in the science classroom can look many different ways. It is vital to do so in your classroom! It is important because it helps students be more aware of their thinking. It will create metacognitive students. It is important to slow down and understand your student’s thinking process as well as your own. For example, if a student responds to a question with a far fetched answer, it would be beneficial to evaluate their response. It important to foster metacognitive students. By this I mean not just going through the motions everyday to complete the chapter by your timeline, but by slowing down and making sure the students are learning what they are supposed to be learning. A lot of students will just rush through the work to complete it and get a grade. We see this was too often. Students should focus on their thinking more and not just their performance on assignments.

One way to make thinking visible in your science classroom is through the use of an activity called the explanation game. This is where you are going to look closely at an object you are trying to understand. During the explanation game you name the object, explain it, give reasons, and generate alternatives.

  • Name it: What is the object? What is a feature or aspect the object has?
  • Explain it: What do you think the object is? What is the purpose of this object?
  • Give reasons: Why do you think what you think?
  • Generate Alternatives: What else could it be? Why?

Another great activity for making thinking visible in your classroom is the red light, yellow light activity.

  • Think about questions before diving into the topic you are covering
  • What are the red lights? What are the things you do not believe? What are the things that stand out to you as being false that stop you in your tracks?
  • What are the yellow lights? What are the things that might slow you down? What are the things that make you pause to wonder if they are true or not?

Finally, the last activity is chalk talk. This is where you get a large piece of paper and consider the question on the paper.

  • What ideas come to mind when you consider this question or problem?
  • What connections can you make to your classmate’s responses?
  • What questions do you generate from looking at other responses?


  1. Hi Allie, I really enjoyed how you explained how these strategies can be used in a science classroom in order for students to visualize their learning experiences firsthand. Chalk talk has definitely been one of my favorites so far, as the use of color and student engagement can be really exciting for a classroom. What topics or standards do you plan on using with chalk talk in your own classroom one day?

    • Thank you! I think a good standard to use with chalk talk is maybe ecosystems. For example the different components of an ecosystem. I also think mutations would be a good topic to really explore all the components.

  2. Hey Allie, I enjoyed reading your post. I agree that it is very important to understand the reason for students’ answers. Without this, it becomes much harder for a teacher to dive into the minds of their students and what they are thinking. As you mentioned, chalk talks are a great way to have students visibly show their thinking through connections and questions. I was wondering, how might you use the connections that students made during their chalk talk to create more visible thinking?

    • How I would use the connections students make during the chalk talk to make thinking more visible is maybe by making some sort of chart after a class discussion. This way they can write the connections down physically.

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